Solar panels in a hurricane

Can Solar Panels Withstand Hurricanes?

Hurricanes have always been a nuisance for Florida residents. But in recent years, these tropical storms have become increasingly devastating. With Hurricane Ian now making its way toward the Gulf Coast, many Floridians are left wondering: can solar panels withstand hurricanes? In this article, we’ll discuss how residential solar systems fare during severe weather events and offer advice on preparing your PV panels for a hurricane.

Solar Panel Durability

In short, most solar panels are designed to endure high winds, rain, and hail. When installed correctly, solar systems tend to hold up quite well during hurricanes.

The state of Florida has strict wind codes to ensure that solar panels can stand up to hurricane-strength winds. Most hurricanes have sustained winds of 100 to 150 mph, and many areas of Florida require solar systems to withstand 160 mph winds. At Lake Mary Solar, our solar panels are in compliance with this code and are rated to withstand a minimum of 160 mph winds. So, if you had your PV panels installed by an experienced and dependable solar contractor, your solar system should be able to weather the storm.

Solar Panels in Previous Hurricanes

If you’re skeptical about the durability of solar panels, consider how they held up during past hurricanes:

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy left a wake of destruction throughout the state of New Jersey. Despite high winds and blowing debris, most homeowners reported almost no damage to their solar systems—even in the hardest hit areas.

The same can be said for Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Maria, which wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico in 2017. And during Hurricane Florence, North Carolina’s fossil fuel plants were shut down for weeks following the storm. Yet solar installations were up and running just a day after the hurricane subsided. Again and again, solar panels have proven themselves to be able to withstand what many other structures can’t.

Do Solar Panels Work During a Hurricane?

One of the perks of solar panels is the energy independence they offer. After a hurricane makes landfall, it often results in prolonged power outages in the surrounding area. Fortunately, solar panels will continue to generate power as long as there is sunlight—even during rainy and cloud days; however, their output will be diminished in the absence of direct sunlight. Whether or not you can use that electricity during a power outage depends on the type of solar system you own.

Rain, wind, and hail are some of the biggest concerns during a hurricane. So, how do solar panels hold up during these weather events?

Solar Panels and Rain

Most modern solar panels are waterproof, so they won’t be damaged by moisture—even during heavy and prolonged rainstorms. And because they can convert both direct and indirect sunlight into energy, they’ll continue to function on rainy and cloudy days; however, they may only be able to produce between 10 percent and 25 percent of their optimal capacity during particularly cloudy days.

PV panels are not only impervious to moisture but can actually benefit from a rainstorm. It’s common for solar systems to function more efficiently after a rainstorm. This is because rain can wash away dirt, dust, pollen, and other particles that accumulate on the surface of solar panels.

Solar Panels and Hail

If you’ve ever owned a car, you probably know how frustrating hailstorms can be. Those little balls of ice can leave your vehicle with more craters than the surface of the moon!

Luckily, most high-quality solar panels are built to withstand hail. In fact, a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that the chance of a hailstorm damaging solar panels is less than five percent. And because most homeowners insurance policies cover residential solar systems, you’ll likely be reimbursed if your PV panels are damaged by hail.

Solar Panels and Wind

Wind is another weather event that can damage low-quality or poorly installed solar panels. Wind can damage or loosen the mounting hardware attached to the panels when an uplift occurs.

But, as stated above, most solar panels in Florida are built and tested to withstand winds of 160 mph or greater. If you live in an area with high winds, we recommend buying solar panels from a reputable manufacturer and having a highly experienced solar contractor install them.

Why You Need a Solar Battery During a Hurricane

Net energy metering (NEM) is a great way to save money on electric bills and shorten the payback period of your solar system; however, a grid-tied PV system won’t keep the lights on during a power outage unless you have a solar battery.

Grid-tied solar systems must comply with the rules of the utility company. So, if the grid goes down, you won’t be able to use the electricity even though your solar panels are functioning properly. 

But if you have a solar battery, you can store excess electricity generated by your PV panels and use it during a power outage. Although a backup battery will increase the price of your solar system, it will help to ensure that your home has power even during a blackout.

In Florida, hurricanes have caused power outages for extended periods of time. And because it’s very difficult to attach an air conditioner to a portable generator, many Floridians are forced to endure the heat during these blackouts. But by having a solar battery connected to your PV system, you’ll be able to stay cool during hurricane season.

How To Prepare Your Solar Panels for a Hurricane

If a hurricane or other severe weather event is heading your way, there isn’t much you need to do to prepare your solar system for the storm. But there are a couple of steps you can take to make life easier:

If you have a solar battery, make sure it’s connected to the PV system and is functioning properly. That way, you’ll be able to keep the power running if a storm causes a power outage in your area. If you have a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery, the unit will go into Storm Watch mode when the National Weather Service sends out a severe weather alert in your area. This mode ensures that the battery is charged to maximum capacity so it can power your home if the grid goes down.

Another step you can take to prepare for a storm is to take photos of your solar panels and other valuables. If you need to file a claim with your insurance company, these photos can serve as proof of the items’ condition before the storm.

What To Do After a Hurricane

If a storm damaged your solar panels, don’t try to repair them yourself, and stay a safe distance away from the system. Most PV systems have an automatic shutoff function, but you could be shocked or electrocuted if this feature isn’t working correctly. Instead of trying to fix the panels yourself, contact your utility company and have them assess the damage.

In the unlikely event that your solar panels are damaged, they can likely be repaired or replaced quickly, and the cost should be covered by your homeowners insurance.

Even if your PV panels seem to be unharmed, it’s probably a good idea to have your utility company inspect them to ensure they’re functioning properly. Some utility companies may even require an inspection before reconnecting your system to the grid; however, if your auto-shutoff function wasn’t triggered, the panels are most likely fine.

Conclusion: Can Solar Panels Withstand Hurricanes?

Sadly, hurricanes are a common occurrence that can leave Floridians powerless for long periods of time. But with a high-quality PV panel system and backup battery, you can keep the lights on even when the grid goes down. Just don’t be surprised when the neighbors start knocking!

At Lake Mary Solar, our Florida solar installers understand the kind of extreme weather that the Sunshine State can throw your way. That’s why our solar systems are built to last, enduring rain, hail, and high winds for decades. If you’d like to become energy independent and protect yourself from power outages, get a quote from Lake Mary Solar today.

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